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The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Northern professor pens fantastic novel

During the first semester of my freshman year, I had a Good Books course with Rebecca Johns, a traveling professor at the time. I was timid and still adjusting to college life, and her snarky sense of humor in class helped quell the fear that all of my professors would be old and monotone. Unfortunately, I was a bad student. Being a little bit sick, and a whole lot of lazy for weeks at a time, resulted in a mediocre grade. Thankfully she did not hold this against me and I was able to buckle down for the rest of my NMU career, but just the same I felt I owed it to her to read her first novel, “Icebergs.”

The book begins with a plane crash over a remote part of Newfoundland. It’s WWII and Canadian gunner Walt Dunmore has miraculously survived the wreck. Thrown several yards from the crash site, Walt endures the bitter cold and accumulating snow to search for the other men who were on the plane. Only Walt’s good friend, navigator Alister Clark, remains alive, but his shoulder injury exacerbates the seriousness of their situation. With little food or supplies, the men struggle to stay alive until help arrives.
As the days pass and the adverse Newfoundland weather rages on, Alister succumbs to his injuries and Walt tries to fight the frostbite that is slowly taking over his fingers. Back home, Walt’s wife Dottie receives word that he is missing and finds support and friendship in Alister’s wife. When Walt comes home and Alister doesn’t, a bond forms between the two families that spans generations.
Every family has its dysfunctions, and Johns paints a relatable portrait of two families who have their share of triumphs, sorrows and secrets. What’s also important is that she sculpted the families to change over time, which is also true to life as people get older and new generations are born.

Johns’ storyline is well-researched; from the sensory details of the airplane to the ways of post-war farm life, it’s obvious that Johns loves what she does. Johns said at a book reading last year that her grandfather’s WWII plane crash sparked the idea, but it was written with such accurate description that it reads as though Johns lived through it herself.

One of the downfalls was the amount of characters in the novel. With a story that includes three generations of two families, there were a lot of names to remember.

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Another obstacle – and this is probably the fault of the publisher, not the author – is the occasional absence of words in a sentence. Mistakes will happen, but this one appeared often enough that others who have read the book have commented on it. Even so, all it takes is the other words in the sentence to get the gist and move on.

Reading a great novel is a warm experience, but actually knowing the person who wrote it definitely adds a tingle to it. I respected Johns before, but now after reading what she’s capable of I realize why NMU recently hired her full-time.

The five-star rating of this book is not an attempt to brown-nose, nor was it given for the fact that we share the same name (which is super cool, by the way). Johns will no doubt deal some more mediocre grades this semester, but “Icebergs” earns her an A.

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